Microsoft Access is for masochists. It’s expensive, a pain to learn, and—frankly—quite overkill for nearly any home application.
So, for too long, folks like myself have kept lists in Excel. This works… sort of. But it’s a pain to share, and it lacks a lot of the usefully-database’y features that make working with data multidimensionally both useful and fun.
For instance, I’m trying to keep track of where I’ve traveled around the world, what sets of pictures I’ve taken, where those pictures reside (online, in photo albums, etc.), who I have yet to share them with, and so on. I *could* do lots of messy filtering and sorting on Excel as I try to handle related action items, but a database (featuring multiple persistent views) would be so much easier!
Well… dabbledb and Zoho Creator to the rescue! Below I’ll talk about my initial experiences using both services, some advantages I perceive in each, and I’ll also demo my first “app”—a filterable/sortable list of movies I’ve seen and want to see (all 217 of them so far!)
Clearly, there are lots of professional uses for databases. But here are a few hobbyist uses I’ve thought of off the top of my head:
– Managing and showing off stamp / comic book / music / other collections
– Dealing with rosters (Little League, Church members, volunteer list, etc.)
– Working with a personal or team todo list.
* * *
Zoho Creator (“ZC”) is, at least for now, free. Dabbledb (“ddb”) offers a 30 day free trial, and various plans after that starting at $10/month.
Getting started on either service is a snap. You can easily import your existing data just by copying the cells from Excel and pasting one big block into a text box in either service. Both of them handled this data quite smartly!
Some other things both services have in common:
– Very passionate developers who regularly participate in discussions online about their services.
– The ability for users to put views and even forms on other Web sites.
– Active user forums.
– Helpful getting-started / overview videos
Some advantages specific to ZC:
– A unique and seemingly powerful scripting language
– Custom error messages and validation
– Multi-select-list fields.
– The ability to put an “active” view into another Web page
Some advantages specific to ddb:
– It’s fast!
– Handy grouping function
– Superior ease of data entry
– More choices of field types
– Multidimensionality (a bit hard to explain… but you can define relationships between tables)
I’ve included my movie database (in ZC) as a sample below. Have fun searching, filtering, sorting… and don’t worry, it’s read-only, so you can’t hurt anything! 😀